With Covid-19 vaccinations accelerating, attention is turning to tools for people to prove that they have been inoculated and potentially bypass the suffocating restrictions used to fight the pandemic.
Though the idea is meeting some resistance over privacy and equity concerns, several types of coronavirus vaccination records, sometimes called “vaccine passports,” already exist, in paper and digital form. Hundreds of airlines, governments and other organizations are experimenting with new, electronic versions, and the number grows daily, although so far their use has been very limited.
Portable vaccine records are an old idea: Travelers to many parts of the world, children enrolling in school and some health care workers have long had to supply them as proof that they have been vaccinated against diseases.
But vaccine passports use digital tools that take the concept to new levels of sophistication, and experts predict that electronic verification will soon become commonplace, particularly for international air travel, but also for admission to crowded spaces like theaters.
“yellow card,” used for decades by travelers to show inoculation against diseases like yellow fever. But those are on paper, filled out by hand and fairly vulnerable to forgery.
The tool might have to address several variables: It is unclear how long inoculation lasts, there can be bad batches and the emergence of new variants of the virus are likely to require new vaccines. So in the long run, an electronic record might need to show which specific vaccine a person received, from which batch and when.
More than a dozen competing versions are already being developed and promoted.
using CommonPass, developed by the Commons Project, a Swiss-based nonprofit, with support from the World Economic Forum. Lufthansa passengers flying into the United States can also use it.
The same month, Singapore Airlines became the first carrier to make limited use of Travel Pass for people flying between Singapore and London, and will put it into wide use in May.
Also in March, New York State became the first government in the United States to implement a system, the Excelsior Pass, developed with IBM, which some venues have used to prove vaccination. The governors of Florida and Texas have vowed to block any such system in their states, calling it government overreach and an invasion of privacy.